For just over a year now, I’ve only worn five pairs of underwear – for much of that time, I’ve only had three pairs actually with me. At times, I’ve swapped as often as four times a day while at others I’ve gone as long as three weeks without changing or washing a pair. A few times I’ve even gone over a week straight without removing a pair at all (or taking a shower for that matter). It sounds absolutely disgusting, but I assure you that even in some of the most extreme circumstances I’ve been fresher feeling (and smelling!) than after a day at the office in a pair of Fruit of the Looms.
How is this possible? I can only assume some sort of voodoo magic, performed by the folks at ExOfficio as they conjure their Give-N-Go underwear from somewhere beyond the normal physical realm (note: much like a JC Penney catalog, that link is mildly not work-safe). If it’s not obvious yet, let’s be clear about one thing before I proceed to write an excessively lengthy review: there are very few things I will recommend with zero reservations and ExOfficio Give-N-Go boxer briefs are one of them. You should buy them, it’s that simple – it doesn’t matter if you will only wear them to the office and wash them every day, you should still buy them, and I’ll convince you in this review.
Allow me to warn you up front that this review is going to be borderline TMI throughout... Underwear can be a personal thing, but you need to know the raw reality, right…? If the phrase “swamp ass” triggers a moue of discomfort, may I suggest that my resounding endorsement be enough?
First, I seem to be genetically designed for cold and bulky power. The end result is that my beard connects all the way down to my ankles, I have big bulky legs that let me do things like jump nine feet standing and over three feet vertically (while pushing 200lbs), and my body temperature runs very hot at the surface causing me to sweat a lot. Do the math – comfortable underwear is critical for me and going anywhere without good boxer briefs is doomed to unpleasantness.
For years, I’ve worn Underarmor shirts but it never occurred to me to look for the same effect down below. Last summer I was in an outdoors store looking for some minor gear for my trip to South America and I saw ExOfficio Give-N-Go’s underwear out with their snappy slogan about exploring a billion countries in a few weeks with only a pair of underwear. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous, but I was intrigued by the idea and decided to google it.
I was completely amazed at the reviews for their products on Amazon – they had literally hundreds of reviews, every single one positive. In fact, in hours of research, I could not find anyone complaining about anything other than the price. This may be the only product in the history of the internet that people didn’t randomly hate on, so of course I immediately ordered a couple pairs.
Within a couple weeks, I was hooked – and the next month, I dropped over a hundred dollars ordering a few more pairs and switched to them full time. I will never go back to normal underwear. Let me explain why, using real world examples.
I worked as an IT manager, meaning I spent most of my time sitting at my desk staring at a computer. At the end of a normal day, part of the change into casual clothes would always include a change of underwear, yet when I started wearing ExOfficio I found myself completely comfortable at the end of the day. In fact, I stopped bothering to pack an overnight bag when spending the night elsewhere, instead happily wearing the same pair all day, evening, night, and morning (my condo was next to my office at work, so I usually changed in the morning). I even received compliments, but the convenience factor alone made it worth it.
Training is another issue entirely. As soon as a normal pair of underwear gets sweat soaked, it not only begins to chafe but also starts to lose support. This effect can make any long workout extremely uncomfortable and in some places dangerous (who wants to jump off walls with their boys bouncing around?), but this doesn’t happen with the Give-N-Go boxer briefs. They can be completely soaked (along with my pants, shirt, and everything else) and I’ve never had them chafe. Even better, they lose only the smallest amount of support, keeping the vast majority of that snug feeling you get when you first put them on.
Somehow they manage to breathe as well. Ask anyone who rides a motorcycle in the summer, it can get a little nasty down there when you spend a lot of time directly in contact with a leather seat. With the Give-N-Go underwear, you still sweat (and it will still soak through if it’s hot enough), but somehow it never gets uncomfortable. In fact, most of the time I don’t even notice it. This was one of the biggest complaints I heard from people while riding thousands of miles across India in excessive heat and humidity, yet I never once felt uncomfortable down there. During a few particularly hardcore stretches of my scooter ride to the Arctic Circle and back, I went days and even weeks without once taking off any clothes other than my shoes, socks, and hard shell jacket.
Another somewhat frightening thing is the way they often seem to “reset” if you just leave them alone for a bit. You can wear a pair all day long then take them off at night and the next morning they will feel (and smell) like they just came out of the dryer. You can do this for days or even weeks at a time, depending on how much sweat you get in there, without ever touching them with water. A common thing for me when living a “normal” life is to wear one pair for the 9-5 for most of a week, switching to another pair for training – when I’m off on an adventure, I’ll just take a pair off at night and leave it out to reset for the morning, wearing it for weeks at a time until I get around to digging out a new pair.
Eventually, they will start to build up a slight odor or more likely you’ll just start to feel squicky about the entire thing (who doesn’t clean their underwear?) and you’ll wash them. The easiest and most common way I’d do this during my rotation is just to wear them into the shower after training. Rinse them off, hang them to dry, and wear them again the next day. At home, I’ll actually throw them into the washing machine every couple weeks, but that isn’t even really necessary.
While I was training Muay Thai and MMA in Thailand, I put these through probably the highest amount of abuse imaginable. Each morning, I would wake up wearing a pair. I’d then train for up to three hours in 90+ degree high humidity weather, go back to my room, shower, and hang that pair up to dry. I’d switch into a new pair for the afternoon, with it becoming completely sweat soaked just walking around. In the late afternoon, I’d train again for up to three hours, then shower, rinse, and hang up the second pair, switching into a third pair. I’d wear this pair around for the evening (with it usually getting soaked as well), then head back in for the night, hanging it up and switching to the dry pair that I had hung up after the morning session. I did this for a month straight, four swaps a day, always fresh when I needed it, never chafed, always comfortable. Try and do that with normal underwear.
When I’m out hiking, I often do the same thing on a smaller schedule. In Nepal, for example, I would wear one pair in the morning, then some time in the afternoon I would eat a snack and air out my boys, hanging the morning’s pair on the back of my pack and switching into a “fresh” pair. When it was time to stop for the night, I’d usually swap back to the pair that had been hanging on my pack and wear it the rest of the evening before swapping again in the morning. It’s amazing how comfortable this can be.
In addition to all this incredible utility, they actually look pretty good too. I’m a far stretch from an underwear model, but I’ve received a number of complements at various times. In black, they have a conservative look that complements in the right way without being showy and as a result I’m quite comfortable showing them off, walking to the restroom in a hostel or training in shorts split to my waist to throw kicks easier. Often when I’m on an adventure I’ll be wearing my first generation REI Taku hardshell pants which have those vents with a zipper from the knees to the waist – if you look closely at many of my pictures, you’ll see I often have these unzipped and my boxer briefs on display for all to see, yet I’m never embarrassed (a Swedish girl once told me she thought it was sexy, true story!).
If all this isn’t enough to explain why I’m so keen on these, allow me to make this final point: I have abused these in a way that no normal underwear will ever be abused. I’ve harshly wrung out each pair well over a hundred times, I’ve worn them excessively, I’ve had them soaked for days at a time, subjected them to incredible amounts of dirt and dust… yet aside from nearly illegible tags, four of the five pairs look and feel brand new. On one pair, the elastic waistband has become stretched out – it’s still comfortable and supportive but the waistband itself rides a little funny. This happened when I accidentally wore it rolled over for a few days with a few top layers tucked into it on the Alaska Highway, and I don’t expect any elastic to bounce back to normal after being stretched much further than usual and held there for days.
So, yeah, buy ‘em. If the $25 price tag scares you (trust me, you will more than get that value out of them), it’s quite common to find them for $15 or so on sale at various places – just keep your eye out! And, a word of advice, buy the black… I have one light gray pair and they have a tendency to show weird stains when washed in “hard” water and air dried, it’s just the minerals in the water but nobody wants to see strange stains in their underwater.
ExOfficio does make a ton of other stuff aside from their underwear line. I have two other pieces of their clothing – the first is the discontinued predecessor to the Halo long sleeve shirt, which I really enjoy and find to be a great all-around shirt, especially in the tropics. It was supposed to be my main shirt on the trip to Asia, but I accidentally left it on my bed and ran off just wearing a t-shirt!
The second is a pair of pants that were the predecessor to their current Nio Amphi line – you’ll see these pants all over in pictures of my adventures (the green cargo pants in the pictures here), because when I travel I bring with me my REI Taku (gen 1) pants and my Nio Amphi’s (gen 1) everywhere – and that’s usually it. I often don’t even bother with shorts, both because it’s not appropriate in many cultures and because it’s extra bulk when I can just roll up my Nio Amphi’s.
They are permanently disfigured in many minor ways, with tar, rubber, oil, and paint burned into them from four continents and even a few small holes from close brushes with flaming objects. They are still my absolutely favorite pants, however, awesomely comfortable in extreme heat, surprisingly tough and tear resistant (in fact there’s not a single rip in mine), attractively simple, as capable of going weeks without washing as you’d expect from ExOfficio, and their ability to dry out quickly comes in really handy when you sweat through them or get soaked.
As such, I imagine that pretty much anything from them is pretty impressive. Ultimately what makes the biggest impact is the genuine durability – I am absolutely amazed that my Give-N-Go briefs and my Nio Amphi pants have put up with what I’ve throw at them over the last year and look to be ready to go for another.